THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part Three

THE APOSTOLIC MANTLE – Introduction

Authority, Anointing and Sphere 

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honour than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Hebrews 3:1-4 

In the above verses, Jesus is identified as the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess as Lord of our lives. He is also identified as the Builder of all things. He abides in believers and chooses to reveal Himself in different ways in different people through a variety of manifestations of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 14:12; Ephesians 4:12). 

Each believer is anointed (empowered through impartation) to do certain tasks within the will of God and the kingdom of God. Jesus, for example, was authorized and anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19). His sphere was to the entire world. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)

Jesus began a process of Kingdom delegation and multiplication of ministry which continues today. He gave some as apostles (Ephesians 4:11). God has appointed in the church first apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). He gave them clear understanding of their authority, sphere and anointing. It is these three areas of apostolic ministry we want to look at over the next few days.

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-6).

It was quite clear to these twelve, who would become the apostles of the Lamb, that they were authorized to preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Their sphere was clearly delineated: the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Their anointing was confirmed as people responding to the gospel were healed, raised from the dead, cleansed and set free. The apostle is to understand his authority and sphere, and to trust in the anointing. 

AUTHORITY

What is the nature of spiritual authority. Jesus contrasts spiritual authority with gentile authority that served: 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many.”   (Matthew 20:25-28). 

Egocentric dictators who rule by intimidation, coercion, pressure, manipulation, have no place in the kingdom of God. Apostles do not lord it over God’s heritage. They exercise themselves in serving, not in authority. Their God-given authority flows as they serve. 

Jesus is the prototype of apostleship. True apostolic authority is proven by laying down one’s life in serving those within your sphere of authority. A true apostle is simply a man of flesh, a clay vessel, through whom Jesus manifests Himself as Apostle. Whether He is being a “lion” or “lamb” at the moment, selfless love will be the motivation, humility will be the attitude, and servitude will be the methodology. Today’s apostle “washes the feet” of those who follow him and to those to whom he ministers.

He is a messenger who is sent by God to those who have ears to hear. The apostolic vision will move the hearts of people to follow. God’s authority is inherent in His Word, and the anointing to build His house is upon His messenger, the apostle. Those whose hearts bear witness to the message and the messenger willingly submit to the ministry. Their submission makes spiritual authority function properly. 

Jesus says this regarding a shepherd of the sheep: When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4). He goes ahead of them and they follow; he doesn’t get behind them and drive them. 

The origin of apostolic authority 

Deacons and elders were appointed and ordained by apostles. (Acts 6:2-3; 14:23; Titus 1:5.) Within the local church, elders delegate authority consistent with designated responsibilities. Who appoints and ordains apostles? What is the origin of apostolic authority? 

“And He (Jesus) went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve.”     (Mark 3:13-14)

I”t was at this time that he went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”       (Luke 6:12-13). 

Jesus appointed the twelve after much prayerful agreement with the Father, who sees the hearts of all men. These men were a major focus of Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus totally subordinated His will. He came to do His Father’s will. He appointed whom He wanted because He wanted whom His Father wanted. Perfect unity and harmony prevails among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are One, and apostles are to be one with Them. 

Paul testified that he was an apostle – not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead – (Galatians 1:1). He clarified who gave him his authority, and for what purpose: “For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you…” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Paul directed Titus, a young apostle under his oversight, to exhort and reprove with all authority (Titus 2:15). 

He reminded Timothy, the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5). Such counsel can keep the young apostle’s ministry consistent with the true nature of spiritual authority. Divine authority is marked by love from a pure heart. 

However, we need to observe that divine appointment to divine authority needs the witness of the church: 

“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 13:2-4). 

The word “apostle” simply means “sent out one.” And, when a church receives the ministry of an apostle they, in time, share the apostle’s anointing and become apostolic – sent out to minister outside the building and outwardly focused on the lost, the least, and the last. 

So, in Acts 13 we see that although clearly called and appointed by Jesus Christ and God the Father, and sent out by the Holy Spirit, the local church laid hands upon them and sent them out. They were commended to the work by the presbytery and local church and reported back to the presbytery and local church. 

THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part Two

God had set the stage for the next phase of His restoration of all things. The 1990’s was the decade for the reintroduction of the role of the apostle. Men began to emerge with government in their bones. (Apostles have the government of God in their bones.) Apostles impart God’s order and peace. Apostles understand the blueprint for building God’s house. True apostles walk in an anointing which includes the revelation of the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3) and the wisdom to know what to do with it. 

God appointed in the church, first apostles, (By wisdom a house is built,) second prophets, (And by understanding it is established;) third teachers … (And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.) I Corinthians 12:28 and Proverbs 24:3 

God appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers (I Corinthians 12:28). That is God’s divine order. The order is reversed in God’s restoration process. God began by restoring the teachers first, the prophets second, and thirdly the apostles. 

In restoration, the first became last. The apostle is the last of the gifts (Ephesians 4:8) to be restored, bringing to fulness the fivefold gift variety which is to mend, mature and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Appointed first in the church, restored last to the church, the apostolic movement is just now gaining understanding and momentum in the church. 

All of the ministry gifts are now present although not always accepted. But, there remains the task of bringing them into order. The prophets need to come to grips with being appointed second, the teachers third. A deeper understanding of the apostolic ministry will release these gifted and called men and women to come alongside, rightly relating to the apostles. Then there will be a fuller release of equipping which will result in the saints finding and functioning in their respective ministries. 

When the whole body is being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, when each individual believer is properly working in his or her anointed sphere and gifting, the body will build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16) and the church will be restored. Then the greater work of extending the kingdom to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14) will experience an exponential increase. First, the apostles must be given their rightful place in God’s order. The body of Christ will rise up, united in God’s purpose. The prayer of Jesus will be answered, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). 

My focus is to show the heart and vision of the apostle, more than the technical out-workings. I am convinced that focusing upon the technical tends to draw us away from the spontaneous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The biblical record of the apostles reveals to us how they were led by the Holy Spirit. My heart is to see Spirit-led apostolic ministry replicated. It is not enough for modern day apostles to mechanically or technically replicate their predecessors. 

THE RESTORATION OF TRUE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY – Part One

The First Shall Be Last … Matthew 20:16
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles … I Corinthians 12:28 

We are in the latter days of the restoration of the church to her New Testament pattern, purity and power. The Word of God promises a restoration of all things before heaven releases King Jesus (Acts 3:19-21). The church is to proclaim and demonstrate His glory and kingdom in the earth (Ephesians 3:10). Therefore, the church is being restored so that she may be God’s agent in the restoration of all things. 

Creation cries out for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). Jesus is the firstborn of many sons whom God is bringing to glory (Romans 8:29-30; Hebrews 2:10). Not only mankind, but all of creation will enjoy the Creator’s beauty and purpose when released from the bondage of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When the glory of God is seen in and upon the sons of God (male and female), their testimony of Jesus Christ will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess Him as Lord. This will bring freedom and the power of the Holy Spirit in fulness, and all of creation will rejoice. Even the mountains and hills will shout, and the trees will clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). 

When God initiated the New Testament church, He began with apostles (I Corinthians 12:28). Jesus began by discipling twelve men who would be the pioneers of the early church (Mark 3:13-19). These men experienced their first apostolic mission with specific instructions and perimeters from Jesus (Matthew 10). He carefully brought them along under His ministry for nearly three years. Then they suffered the despair and disillusionment of Calvary. 

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the remaining eleven young apostles (Judas, by this time, had committed suicide). He concluded His final instructions to them with the command to stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The fulness of their apostolic authority, power and purpose began to unfold and the church was born at the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit empowered them, giving them words for the hour. It was a fruitful day (Acts 2:37-41). Through the faithful, anointed and obedient ministry of these twelve men (Matthias, by this time, had been chosen as the 12th apostle), the first representation of the New Testament church came into its own (Acts 2:42-47). 

Biblical accounts of the early church reveal the apostles on the forefront of a movement that changed the face of the earth in a few years. The New Testament canon contains the revelation of Jesus Christ as given to apostles under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. Our guide for faith and practice as followers of Jesus Christ has been penned by simple men who were born of the Spirit of God and anointed to write the apostolic message out of apostolic hearts with apostolic purpose. 

Yet, after only a relatively few years, the vibrant, Spirit-led apostolic ministry gradually slipped out of sight as Life gave way to tradition and form. And the church went nearly 2000 years without this fundamental and foundational ministry being generally acknowledged (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20). A close examination of history will reveal men who were apostles. But, they were not acknowledged as apostles, probably didn’t understand themselves to be apostles, and certainly did not fulfill the criteria that is being called for in today’s apostles. For the most part, apostles were replaced by institutionally positioned and man-appointed bishops and administrators. 

Praise God for restoration! From the days of Martin Luther to our present time, God has been restoring the church (Acts 3:21). The church has only recently begun to acknowledge the validity of apostles and apostolic ministry. A restoration of the revelation of holiness was prompted by the Wesleys in the 1800’s. In the early 1900’s, the pentecostal experience along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit were restored. The understanding that every believer is a priest and has a ministry was the fruit of the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. 

Up until that time, the pastors and evangelists were the generally acknowledged church leaders. Pastors were those who stayed home and cared for the churches, and evangelists traveled. In actuality, many who traveled were not evangelists. Some were prophets. Some were teachers. But, during that period of time they were generally called “evangelists.” 

With the charismatic renewal came a significant hunger for the Word of God. Local pastors could not satisfy that hunger. People would travel for many miles – Bibles, notebooks and pens in hand – to hear the Word proclaimed by emerging teachers. This new emphasis upon the teaching gift and the ministry of the five-fold teacher (Ephesians 4:12) in the 1970’s was a significant step in the restoration process. 

Hearing what the teachers were saying about the Word of God resulted in a new hunger. People wanted to hear from God for themselves. This void began to be filled in the 1980’s, as God began to restore the prophets. This fourfold ministry, the prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, equipped the saints. The present day ministry of the five-fold apostles had yet to come back on the scene or be accepted by the Church. The priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9), began to gain momentum in knowledge, insight and understanding into the Word of God. 

Yet the infant church lacked the vision of God (Proverbs 29:18)  and revelation of how the Church was to be built (Matthew 16:17-18) which would motivate people into the purposes of God. People were hungry, eating, but had not yet begun to see themselves being built together (Ephesians 4:16; I Peter 2:5). The church was like a body which is full of life but has no bones. There was no infrastructure. There was no order. There was no divine revelation of the government of God for the New Testament church. Left with man-made organizations, institutions and governmental forms, some rebelled only to form their own man-made structures. And, so God began to add back the ministry and governmental role of the apostle. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-eight (end)

Continued from yesterday…

The purity and authenticity of their cultivated spirit influence everything in their path. Their beliefs, identity, behaviour, and relationships blend to project a persona that pricks the spirit in everyone around them. Analysts might say that the job of a revolutionary is to reform the culture, but that confuses purpose and product. These extreme God-lovers reform the culture simply by being true representations of whom God made them to be. They do not create and enforce a carefully plotted and meticulously deployed agenda to reform. They simply live a holy and obedient life that a society suffering from the stronghold of sin cannot ignore. The transformation that follows in their wake is not so much their doing as it is an inevitable result of God’s creatures waking up to the difference between living in the freedom of Christ or in the shackles of Satan.

In past spiritual awakenings, dynamic preachers went into society to bring people into a local church for further development. This era of spiritual growth is different. It features millions of individuals quietly using the weapons of faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that God has given them to be scions of transformation within the framework of their typical space and connections. The starting point is internal, not external: their message is their own transformation by Christ, made real by their words and deeds. Rather than draw people out of the world, and into a relationship with an institution, revolutionaries demonstrate what it means to bring the presence of God to wherever they are. This a broad-based grassroots awakening that has no single leader and no headquarters. The declaration of purpose is more than two thousand years old: the Bible.

In the great awakenings of the past, the pattern was always the same: draw people into the local church for teaching and other experiences. In this new movement of the Spirit, the approach is the opposite: it entails drawing people away from reliance upon a local church into a deeper connection with and reliance upon God. In other words, past awakenings and revivals were outside-inside phenomena, in which the dynamic and evangelistically gifted  Spurgeons, Finneys, Wesleys, and Whitefields of the Church brought non-christian people inside the local church to be ministered to. This edition is predominantly an outside-outside experience, where believers see the world as their church grounds and every human being they encounter as a soul to love into the permanent presence and experience of God. Many of these revolutionaries are active members of a local church, but their primary ministry effect is not within the congregational framework but in the raw world. 

So, what we believe drives what we do. What we believe matters to God – which is why so much of the Bible painstakingly explains God and His Kingdom to us. The revolution fosters a stunningly diverse array of activities that work together to produce spiritual and behavioural transformation which then changes their community and eventually the world. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-seven

This is a great time to be alive – especially for those who love Jesus Christ. The opportunities to minister are unparalleled: the million of searching hearts and agonized souls, combined with the abundance of resources Christians have at their disposal, make this a very special era for the Church. Throw in the rapid and profound cultural changes occurring, as well as the struggles local churches are undergoing, and we have an environment in which the birth of a spiritual revolution is inevitable. The confluence of those elements demands a dramatic response, and the emerging revolution represents such a historic thrust.

There can be no turning back at this point, no return to the old ways and the comfortable forms. Although we cannot accurately predict what the Church will look like twenty years hence, we can be confident that it will be more different from than similar to the Church at the start of the twenty-first century. The revolution is an extensive grassroots response to the undeniable and insatiable human longing for a genuine relationship with God our Father. The transformations it introduces are sometimes difficult to accept and oftentimes inefficient in their development, but the outgrowth is a stronger and more irresistible Church.

As you seek to comprehend the emerging revolution an describe it to others, keep in mind its central facets. It is comprised of a demographically diverse group of people who are determined to let nothing stand in the way of an authentic and genuine experience with God. They are involved in a variety of activities and connections designed to satisfy a spiritual focus. They are God-lovers and joyfully obedient servants. They are willing to do whatever it takes to draw closer to God, to bond with Him, and to bring Him glory and pleasure. If that can be accomplished through existing structures and processes, they accept that; if not, they will blaze new trails to facilitate such a Spirit-driven life.

En route to this intimacy with God, they are integrating the seven spiritual passions of a true revolutionary Christian into their lives. Their daily expressions of worship refine their sense of beauty, the creativity, and the majesty of God. Their joy at knowing Him naturally provides the impetus to communicate to others the Goos News about Jesus’ sacrifice and offer of salvation. Their infatuation with the Kingdom fuels their consistent effort to know more about God’s ways. They respond to His love by seeking ways to invest the resources they control of influence for Kingdom outcomes. Their friendships hinge on spiritual growth. They pursue opportunities to use their abilities to affect the quality of life in the world. And they recognize that their most important relationships is within their family and that Christ must be the centrepiece of their experiences together. These passions enable revolutionaries to remain centered on God in a world of distractions and seductions. Their attention to these passions allows them to be the Church.

At what stage, or under what conditions, is the revolution successful? Revolutionaries recognize that spiritual success is more about surrender than results. They know that God examines the fruit of someone’s livfe, but the real fruit of the Kingdom is flat-out, no-excuses obedience to God. Such submission produces a perpetual string of behaviours and outcomes that may be imperceptible to a frenetic and hardhearted world, but represent major victories within the Kingdom. Why? Because life is war, and every time a soldier willingly engages in sacrificial battle for the King, His honour is advanced. Revolutionaries’ complete and total surrender to Him and His cause is the essence of eternal victory. 

It is this holistic devotion to being Christlike that triggers the transformational legacy of the revolution. First, revolutionaries are changed so profoundly that they see life through na completely different lens. Then, armed with that new perspective and the courage to respond, these individuals set about transforming then world by being relics of Jesus in every space their inhabit. 

The last in the series tomorrow…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-six

There are five reactions to the revolution….

The first, and at this moment the largest, is those who are completely ignorant of the revolution’s existence and emergence. As word gets out and the revolution expands in numbers and influence, this segment will shrink considerably. 

The second group is those who are antagonistic toward the revolution. These individuals feel threatened by the extreme change represented by the seemingly unorthodox approach to spirituality. These individuals tend to believe (or to hide behind theological arguments contending) that the Bible disallows a believer to intentionally live at arm’s length from the local church. The response of these folks ranges from outright hostility toward revolutionaries, to genuine prayer that the wayward sons will return to a church home, to pity for these ‘backsliders.’

A third group is the coexister segment. These are Christians who have adopted a “let them be” attitude, refusing to judge the spiritual journey of others. Often these people search for ways to have a peaceful relationship with revolutionaries and attempt to build bridges that facilitate continued harmony within the body of Christ. Most coexists have little interest in becoming revolutionaries, but they are willing to embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of them will eventually join forces with the revolution. 

A fourth category is the late adopters. As in any situation where significant innovation is introduced, these people are nervously waiting on the sidelines for the transitions to become mainstream so it is safe to get on board. Because believers have a huge degree of confusion about life purpose and spiritual meaning and a latent desire to clarify such matters, this group will become a major feeder for the revolution as time progresses. This group disdains risk. They will cast their lot with the revolution once it seems socially acceptable and culturally unremarkable to do so. Whether their timidity will effectively remove the cutting edge of the revolution or whether these pliable saints will be spiritually energized by the passion and focus of the revolution remains to be seen.

The final category, of course, is the revolutionaries. Millions of them attend church, and millions of others do not. But they all love Jesus Christ and are devoted to Him as their Lord and Saviour. Knowing that they can be more effective lovers of God by recasting themselves as humble, single-minded servants, they are committed to the revolution for the duration of the battle, willing to endure the criticism of fellow believers so that they can be the Church in the best way that they know how. They are not so much interested in converting their distractors to be revolutionaries as they are determined to honour God through their purity and passion for Him.

The agents of transformation that we are calling revolutionaries realize that the only way to silence their critics is to be Christlike at all times. Even that did not stop Jesus’ critics, and many revolutionaries are resigned to the fact that perpetual criticism from Christians is simply an unfortunate and unjust price they will pay for loving and serving God with all their heart, mind, strength, and soul. Someday, they know, they will stand before the only true Judge and will be made whole by the One who reconciles everyone’s accounts.